overview Silly white lies. Alison Chandler || 23 || Freelance Graphic Designer --Some people would have said that there was no glamor in graphic design, that it was a boring, thankless job for people who weren't talented enough to be a real artist. Being featured in a gallery wasn't something that Alison Chandler had ever aimed for, but according to her older sister, she was wasting her time and life by sitting at her computer all day and creating logos. That had always been Madison's opinion, and the older woman never failed to state it during their bi-monthly phone calls where Alison would set the phone aside and read an article online about dealing with annoying people, or how to politely decline an invitation and come up with a good excuse. There were just some things that people couldn't avoid, parties that were more of an obligation and less of a social calling. “So, are you bringing anyone?” Madison asked, voice bubbly and conversational. For the last ten minutes, Alison's attention had been split between her bank account and a website that sold outlandishly priced home décor where a throw pillow was close to one hundred dollars. “To...what?” Alison asked slowly, mousing over to close the tab—she had enough throw pillows, and the conversation with her sister had just grown morbidly interesting. A rather disgruntled sigh erupted from the phone's speaker, and Alison raised an eyebrow, waiting for Madison to go on. “I sent you an email,” she said. “Mom and dad's thing! The barbeque, their anniversary! Seriously. I sent you an email. Didn't you get it?” That was hardly a question that Alison needed to think about. She knew exactly which email Madison was talking about, and it was the same one that red-haired girl had looked at for all of five seconds before sending it to the trash. The last place that she wanted to spend her weekend was trapped at a lake with her parents, siblings and all of their friends to celebrate thirty (allegedly) perfect years of marriage. Alison had planned to make up an excuse, a reason for continuing to be a disappointment, but Madsion was annoyingly close to ruining that plan. “I don't think I got it,” she said, an upward inflection to her voice. The other woman didn't seem to buy it. “Again. Who are you bringing?” Madison almost waited an entire beat before launching into more questions. “Not that guy you dragged to Thanksgiving, I hope. He looked homeless, Al. I think he asked to borrow dad's car.” The homeless man in question, who was more of a dirty, wannabe, rock star than an actual bum, was no longer in the picture. Even if Alison wanted to bring him to the party, they weren't exactly on speaking terms. It had something to do with a t-shirt and a whole lot of bleach, indiscretions that no longer mattered. “I'm seeing someone new. I'll be there, alright? Don't worry about me.” “I don't,” Madison scoffed. “Everyone else does.” There was a pause, and for a moment, Alison was trying to figure out whether or not she was actually offended. “Look, I have to go. Just show up, okay? Don't ruin this for them.” After that, the line went dead. Now caught between a rock and a hard place, and wrapped up in a lie, Alison needed a plan. There was no way that she was going to get out of the party, and she certainly didn't want to go alone. She doubted that any of her friends would be willing to tag along, either trying to keep their lives normal by avoiding the freak show, or bogged down functional adult obligations. “Fuck...” Alison sighed under her breath and groaned as she pressed her hands over her face. For the rest of the afternoon, Alison did her best to get some of her work done, but could barely focus on the menu design for a local bakery because her mind continued to slip back to the dilemma she had created for herself. Somehow, the best solution for everything seemed to be a total stranger—people hired other people for things all the time and the cash that she hadn't spent on that stupid throw pillow could be spent on a date. There were always actors around who needed the experience, Alison reasoned as she brought up her local Craigslist page. It took a while of scrolling through ads before Alison finally found someone normal. He seemed funny, his ad well-written and smart, saying that he would hang out for a small fee and free food, and there was bound to be plenty of that. Putting off the idea of being brutally murdered and ending up as a cautionary tale on the news, Alison grabbed her cell phone and dialed the number listed at the bottom of the page. It rang several times, the length of which was almost enough time for Alison to reconsider and hang up, but someone did answer. He sounded normal, not like a liar who was living in their mother's basement, or possibly skinned woman to make lamps out of them. How did serial killers sound, anyway? “Hi... Is this the guy from Craigslist who will work for free food?” That sounded so strange. Alison just hoped that she didn't sound like a total creep.